Search Marketing Automation Will Compete With Agencies

Sharvanboskirk [Posted by Shar VanBoskirk]

In Q1 I met with an SEO automation vendor called Altruik.  Under development since 2006, Altruik launched in January and provides a technology solution to help dynamic (and static) sites get top search engine rankings.

Before Altruik, I'd had a spate of updates from search marketing automation tools (Marin Software, Kenshoo, Omniture Search Center, Coremetrics), but all focused on the paid search side.  Altruik was the first enterprise-level technology I had met dedicated to SEO.

I think we are at the beginning of a major trend here.  I think we can expect to see the development of more technologies that turn search marketing project work into tech-enabled processes.  And why not?  Altruik charges a $7500 installation fee and then $500-2000/month (depending on site complexity) to guarantee rankings.  Pretty nice price compared to $150-200,000/site pricetag standard for most agencies.

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re: Search Marketing Automation Will Compete With Agencies

Sorry, but this is seriously ill-advised, to suggest that a technology solution - for fixed upfront costs and relatively low running costs - can "guarantee rankings".Any of us who, over the years, have worked with brands large and small to achieve and sustain competitive visibility thru organic rankings know all too well there is no such thing as a guarantee when it comes to visibility.If it were as simple as this, you wouldn't need paid search in the mix and you could - as implied here -be rid of all those expensive agencies ... ; >Thom

re: Search Marketing Automation Will Compete With Agencies

You're mostly right. Here at Yield Software, we launched our Web Marketing Suite on April 1 at Web 2 Expo. We've combined optimization of PPC campaigns, SEO and landing pages into a single, Web-based system. It's fully automated, so much of the day-to-day heavy-lifting across all three pillars of search marketing is done via our algorithms.The reason why I say mostly right is that we believe there will always be a role for professionals to play in helping companies to strategize around search marketing initiatives and that there are specific activities an algorithm will never really be able to do effectively.For instance, a key part of effective SEM is content strategies for your site, ads and landing pages. While cloud-based analytics do a great job setting and optimizing bids, determining most effective keywords, and conducting multivariate tests of landing pages to assure the best possible conversions in real time, only humans will effectively create content, develop ad copy, and design and compose pages that can inspire an action.What systems can (and are) doing is empowering search marketing professionals and those many smaller businesses on the sidelines of search marketing to do their jobs more efficiently; more effectively; and with better results at a lower overall cost. Technology's first job is to remove inefficiencies where they exist and to make existing efficiencies more so.As it has "grown up", the search marketing field has fostered a huge number of inefficiencies and companies like ours are beginning to finally address them.

re: Search Marketing Automation Will Compete With Agencies

Shar,You're sort of right, but sort of wrong. Automation disrupts commodity donkey work. Automation forces agencies to focus on delivering what they're core competency is: customized advice and solutions. At the same time, automation makes agencies more productive -- a competitive advantage and necessity. Realizing your focus here is SEO, automation, broadly speaking, advances the erosion of media-buy commission economics. Those commissions and margins are shrinking fast. As one agency guy told me today, the buy business is not short of a food bank.Cheers,Max Kalehoff from Clickable.com

re: Search Marketing Automation Will Compete With Agencies

There are ten positions on the first search engine results page. Taking this article at face, one can assume that once Altruik has ten clients in any vertical it will take more innovative human-driven strategies to compete.While SEM/O automation improves efficiencies, the agencies will continue to drive the innovative strategies to compete.

re: Search Marketing Automation Will Compete With Agencies

Hi Shar,We met a while ago and we discussed so many things about SEO. Just wanted to clarify your point on ranking. I don’t think there will ever be a white hat SEO solution that guarantees rankings.Everyone asks me about ranking, “how do I improve the ranking of my website?”, I usually respond as follows: Good organic rankings are the result of a comprehensive program that encompasses both on-page and off-page SEO strategies. Successful SEO strategies combine the two to gain and maintain rank power. As implied, on-page SEO refers to all the production requirements on the individual specific pages you are trying to rank, and off-page SEO refers to the external aspects, which attribute to rankings such as link building and social media. Having said that, I view building rank power in the following sequence: 1) As always, it begins with quality and relevant content and then, 2) visibility and optimization of the content for search engine indexing. Once a company has their on-page SEO under control, 3) they can begin fostering the growth of their rank power by creating and deploying good link-building programs that also includes social media (off-page SEO). Altruik’s technology ensures full visibility of the entire site’s content and dynamically automates on-page SEO requirements to ensure that our client’s entire website is visible to search engines. Once their content visibility is maximized in SERP, the productivity and performance of their off-page SEO grows significantly.Our goal is to empower all the highly skilled SEOs and SEMs with our platform to make visibility and on-page SEO easier. We will always need these skilled individuals and their services to ensure a well-rounded SEO program overall.Sincerely,Tom KwonCEOAltruik

re: Search Marketing Automation Will Compete With Agencies

Thom - I agree, "guaranteed rankings"? Not the best choice of words. Paid placement is the only way to guarantee anything in SEM, and that's not even a certainty.However, Altruik's compass heading is correct; the future of the web (and anything therein) requires a degree of automation to be (or remain) competitive. We're on a slow march to the "machine-based" web - we must be skeptical about sustaining *any* process that requires human capital.Mark - "There are ten positions on the first search engine results page."Um, this is a really thin argument. For starters, a significant number of search users have defined the first search page at 20 or more results. Many have selected 50 or 100 results as the first page (like me). As such, the definition of "page one" rankings has changed and user behavior suggests they regularly scan beyond item #20.And even if the stats on modified search preferences were untrue, your argument for a max of ten clients in one vertical rules in only one query per client. This is unreasonable - most of our clients each rank in the top ten for thousands of queries; some are in the tens of thousands of queries. My hunch is that there are enough differentiators between competitors to accommodate many dozens of clients for Altruik in the same vertical with the likelihood of very rare overlaps. And when there are overlaps, they will occur only at the very head of the short tail - the long tail will provide significant room without seeing conflicts.Max - "Automation disrupts commodity donkey work."By definition, disruption (i.e., the kind which Clayton Christensen writes about) has nothing to do with "donkey work". I think you mean "... automation streamlines operations ...", making it far more efficient, which is really different from "disruption" which is typically used to describe transformations that affect entire business models, whole industries, or product segments. Operational efficiencies (according to Christensen) fall in the "incremental" improvement realm.I agree 100% with the remainder of your comment - continuously falling transaction costs and operational efficiencies are driving commission-buy economics into new territory. In an aggregate sense this may be disruptive. But one thing is clear - again agreeing with your remarks - search optimization experts that fail to embrace and adopt automated architectures, will have a tough time competing as margins get thinner.Perhaps Shar is right about the trend, but Altruik - like all SEO service providers - must provide a complete solution - the business requirements for a good SEM strategy are far too complex to reduce it to a simple machine as Shar has portrayed Altruik's offering. I would encourage Shar to drill a little deeper to include a comprehensive picture about Altruik's services - I suspect they provide more than a single machine-based service.

re: Search Marketing Automation Will Compete With Agencies

Out of curiosity --- since Altruik's technology is a play on SEO process automation to help improve rankings, why is their home page title tag "Altruik"? Why wouldn't this company leverage one of the most basic, yet important on-page factors --- an optimized title tag?

re: Search Marketing Automation Will Compete With Agencies

Thanks everyone for your comments. I'm glad to see this post generated so much curiosity/passion! To clarify, my point with the post was not to recommend marketers switch from an agency to an automated solution, nor to explain the ins and outs of Altruik's technology (I'll leave that to Tom Kwok and his team -- Tom, thanks for your post). I simply wanted to raise awareness of an emerging model of search marketing support: the self-service technology.These sorts of tools have existing in the past but have either been too simple, or too complex. Now we are starting to see multiple types of offerings that are flexible enough to suit myriad marketer needs.I would certainly agree that these tools don't provide all of the services that an agency can (which is why the title of my post is that automation will compete with and not *replace* agencies). And of course any new or existing vendor/agency has to prove itself and provide capable customer service/value. My point is simply that I think search marketers now have more viable options available to help them create sophisticated search programs.

re: Search Marketing Automation Will Compete With Agencies

The reason SEO must involve people is that being found is a long way from being hired.To a CEO or Marketing Director outsourcing SEO, 'success' doesn't mean outranking goliaths in search engine results. Success means getting found AND getting responses because we've given prospects a reason to take the next step.That's the only way to take your rank to the bank.It follows that there are two essential tests to run on optimized content:Test #1 - Does this content help our prospects?Test #2 - Does this content help search engines?A well rounded SEO pro will help its client consistently pass both tests.To pull it off, they need to be a strategic marketer armed with sound competitive analysis and monster business writing skills adapted to following complex online content and conversion optimization rules. (More on this in our e-book.)I don't follow all of Tom's long second paragraph, but I think I'm hearing him say Altruik is designed to help you pass test #2.If software can help us pass test #1, let's call him "Hal".